This is what likely caused Facebook’s outage - and why SA banks should be concerned

Business Insider SA
  • SA technology analyst Arthur Goldstuck believes outages at the cybercrime company Cloudflare were likely to blame for Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram's network issues.
  • He believes Cloudflare's DNS servers went down which affected certain services on the social media platforms.
  • SA banks can similarly be disrupted because of their heavy reliance on the internet to deliver services, he warned. 
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider South Africa.

The network issues on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram on Wednesday were likely caused by US internet-service hosting platform Cloudflare, technology analyst Arthur Goldstuck said. 

Outages on Cloudflare have been responsible for similar outages of popular South African websites such as Takealot and News24 in the past week. 

Several global websites such as OkCupid, Buzzfeed and Medium have also experienced problems due to Cloudflare. 

Also read: Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are all working again after an outage that affected photos for about 9 hours

Goldstuck believes Cloudflare is the likely cause as only parts of the social media platforms were affected, such as posting photos on Instagram, or sending voice notes on WhatsApp. 

“Social media networks make use of different DNS providers, and the DNS server of Cloudflare for the specific services on the platforms likely failed,” Goldstuck told Business Insider South Africa. 

A DNS server allows computer and mobile browsers to connect to website addresses, by rooting the correct information to the browser. 

“This is why, for example, users could not load photos as the DNS server was unable to send the correct information to the end user but users were still able to use their feeds.” 

Arthur Goldstuck (Twitter, @art2gee)
Arthur Goldstuck (Twitter, @art2gee)

Facebook, which owns and operates Instagram and WhatsApp, is yet to disclose the cause of their network issues. 

Goldstuck, with over thirty years of experience in the technology sector, said it is extremely worrying that an established company such as Cloudflare has experienced these repeated issues. 

While current outages have not affected essential services, Goldstuck believes the next outage may well hit emergency and financial services hosted online. 

Also read: The big Facebook outage showed how its robots 'see' your photos and interpret them for blind users

He said South African financial services such as banks are especially prone to be hit by such an outage. 

“We don’t have much readiness in South Africa’s banking industry. To avoid a DNS outage heavily affecting a bank’s service it should have multiple points of entry outside of just online. We are just not seeing that with South African banks.” 

New South African banks such as TymeBank and Discovery Bank are almost exclusively hosted online. 

Goldstuck does not believe users’ personal data is at risk as a DNS outage does not give access to an individual’s information. 

He, however, said that cyber warfare teams in countries like North Korea would be prompted by the outages to treat DNS as a point of vulnerability that they could attack to bring digital government and financial services to a halt.

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